The animal on the cover of Mining the Social Web is a groundhog (Marmota monax), also known as a woodchuck (a name derived from the Algonquin name wuchak). Groundhogs are famously associated with the US/Canadian holiday Groundhog Day, held every February 2nd. Folklore holds that if the groundhog emerges from its burrow that day and sees its shadow, winter will continue for six more weeks. Proponents say that the rodents forecast accurately 75 to 90 percent of the time. Many cities host famous groundhog weather prognosticators, including Punxsutawney Phil (of Punxsutawney, PA and the 1993 Bill Murray film).
This legend perhaps originates from the fact that the groundhog is one of the few species that enters true hibernation during the winter. Primarily herbivorous, groundhogs will fatten up in the summer on vegetation, berries, nuts, insects, and the crops in human gardens, causing many to consider them pests. They then dig a winter burrow, and remain there from October to March (although they may emerge earlier in temperate areas, or, presumably, if they will be the center of attention on their eponymous holiday).
The groundhog is the largest member of the squirrel family, around 16–26 inches long and weighing 4–9 pounds. They are equipped with curved, thick claws ideal for digging, and two coats of fur: a dense grey undercoat and a lighter colored topcoat of longer hairs, which provides protection against the elements.
Groundhogs range throughout most of Canada and northern ...